nicolecunningham.ch

This Week on teh Interwebs


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I hate smokers under bus shelters

If there is one thing that makes me go absolutely screaming crazy cat lady, it is smokers under bus shelters in the damn rain.

The sad part here is that I am one of the few people I know who is pro-cigarette. I used to work for a tobacco company and worked for the lead counsel of another tobacco company. I am all about “responsible use” and think that if you haven’t figured out cigarettes cause a myriad of health problems, it isn’t up to the tobacco companies to clue you in. I have no moral problem with cigarettes despite having all four grandparents die from smoking-related health issues. I think some of the restrictive marketing legislation against cigarettes should also be provided to alcohol but hey. Another topic for another post.

But the one group of jackasses making my pro-cigarette convictions wane quickly.  The jackasses who smoke under bus shelters in the rain.  Why does it make me go Eleanor Abernathy on people like I just did to one woman?

Because it is a selfish dick move. When you smoke at the bus shelter  in the rain you ensure that people like me can neither sit down nor stand anywhere but IN THE EFFING RAIN to get away from the cold cigarette stench and associated breathing problems. Because yes, I have to use an inhaler if I am around cigarettes too long. Because yes, you may enjoy smelling like a cold ashtray but I don’t.  Because I have no choice but to breathe your air.

Evidently the smoking initiative that just failed in Switzerland would have curbed cigarette use in places like this.  What I don’t understand is that I grew up in a family of smokers. My dad smokes a pack a day. Doesn’t smell like an ashtray, in fact, he actually smells darn good. Why? Because he smokes outside in a ventilated place.  And in my experience it seems that the assholes who smoke under bus shelters are also those who smoke inside, have stinky clothes, and wind up sitting next to you on a crowded bus, forcing you to breathe the residual smoke. How people kiss people like that is also another topic for another post, but seriously y’all? Why force people to breathe smoke? Why is this something that has to be spelled out to some people?

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Carmex Emergency!

Like many lip balm addicts, we all have a story about our tipping point: the event that turned us from casual balm users into full-blown addicts. For me, several painful events at university whereby I got cold sores if my lips got too dry made me associate the lack of lip balm with nasty cold sores. Further experience showed me that lack of carmex, specifically, was responsible for at least one cold sore episode. I won’t get into the details but years of use has meant i usually use carmex twice a day, keep a pot in my purse, and use other balms or lipstick during the day. (Here i could talk about why i don’t like carmex in a stick but that is another topic for another post, also the fruit of years of personal research).

Travel has meant that my purse contents have changed a bit and today I found myself in the middle of a foreign city with no less than seven lip products in my purse… but no carmex nor its backup tube of zovirax (full disclosure, but what is nice is that it was bought in Algeria so Arabic lettering on the tube means less shame IRL). Panic. I have not been without carmex since exactly September 2003, when I made an ill fated trip to Colette in Paris, 45 minutes from Melun, to spend 7€ on a pot of Carmex (which costs 93 cents at wal mart). What made me realize the error of my ways today was sitting in the sun and feeling my lips tingle. Not the good tingle of carmex but the bad tingle of “impending cold sore meaning weeks of crusty burning pain and throwing out all my wand lipgloss.” I assessed my surroundings. No stores or pharmacies nearby. I briefly considered blistex but then decided the peppermint lip balm i had in my purse would have to do until i could find a pharmacy. I suffered through the three hours my afternoon activities were separating me from the hotel hotel, where my trusty pot of carmex was waiting on me but it seems i may have gotten out of this episode unscathed. And that first hit of carmex felt real good and am sure on some cosmic level prevented a cold sore.

Moral of the story 1: if i ever get stuck in an elevator, i am not having a panic attack because i have to pee or think i am going to die, but because i don’t have carmex.
Moral of the story 2: today i didn’t but i can and will cancel plans and spend ridiculous amounts of money to ensure a steady source of carmex.
Moral of the story 3: it has been over nine years since i was last without carmex for more than a few hours.


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Unbelievable how dependent we are on technology. This is my first WiFi of the day. I must say it is restful to disconnect. I don’t know how i feel about people taking technology “breaks” but i like the idea of spending several hours disconnected at a time. I still checked my work email, but only once at 8am and once again just now.

At the same time, some of the things i did today wouldn’t have been possible without twitter- a chance meeting with an online friend, a restaurant recommendation- but i have so far enjoyed my mini technology break. As i am on the slowest wifi of the world, i will leave you with one picture of Pablito, taken by the lovely Swiss Twist, who is also taking part in the back2blog challenge.

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Pablito, or when you only need one cat to become a crazy cat lady

If you haven’t been living under a rock or something, most of my lovely readers know that I have an unhealthy relationship with m cat Pablito, the star of the internet  (no really he was on tv), and as I prepare for a business trip  (robbers: crazy cat ladies have in-house cat sitters, fyi), it is time for my separation anxiety to hit the roof.

In my defense, Pablito is a pretty awesome cat. He is this big, black, shiny creature, he feels like a fur stole and is rather impressive to look at. He is generally chill and happy, and most people get sat on, plus purrs and headbutts (except for men, he hates men, kind of like me, the world has made me this way). Most people who come to my house agree he is up there on the coolest cats they have ever met scale, even cat haters.  So he isn’t just one of those cats who hides under stuff and poos everywhere (well he does that too). He interacts a lot, he is quite vocal (very deep manly meow) and generally hangs out with whatever human is in the house.

I think I like Pablito more than he likes me.  He’s a cat, he probably has zero effs to give if I am gone for a week as long as he has food and a clean litter box and his Katzenbaum. Pablito also has zero effs to give about anyone, really. The neighbor’s cat keeps trying to make a connection but Pablito has a rigid daily schedule, and if you meow at the Katzenbaum at 8am that just won’t work, because between 7 and 9 Pablito is on the couch in the other room. Every day.  But for me, Pablito is my primary relationship- my favorite thing in the world is to come home from work and listen to him purr (granted he is only purring to make sure I give him food but I will take it) and feel his fat tummy.

I miss him when I am gone way too much. I love to travel, I love to see new things, but for this upcoming trip I actually have angst. I don’t want to not have my nightly couch and tv news time where Pablito sits on me and purrs. (He purrs ALL THE TIME).  It has been like this since I got him a few years ago- leaving him is always a difficult process involving lots of tears. I will probably cry this afternoon. Again, he is a cat and has zero effs to give, but I am the crazy cat lady. Even when I go to work, my heart twinges a little bit. Especially in the snow, I think “do I want to go to work where people are unhappy about keyboards, or do I want to sit on the couch with my big black water bottle?”

One thing I will do differently in the next stage of pet ownership is get two cats when Pablito crosses the rainbow bridge IN FORTY YEARS (keep thinking it). In his case, he was raised as a single cat with his former owners, and I didn’t think it fair for him to have to adjust to a new home and new owner and also have to play cat hierarchy games. Some think the benefits of cat companionship outweigh the stress of the Top Cat process, but knowing Pablito’s personality in his case it would have been bad (It is worth it to note that in Switzerland, shelters will not generally adopt out single cats or cats who will stay inside exclusively. But that cultural difference is another topic for another post). I think having two cats next time (IN FORTY YEARS when Pablito is in the Guinness Book) will help in two ways: First, I will have less travel angst because I will think “hey they have each other.”  Secondly, I think having two will help me not to have this unhealthy, symbiotic relationship with them that I do with Pablito.

 

I am phone-only for the rest of my #back2blog posts and did not have time to pre-write and schedule, so the rest will be written from my phone, with the usual caveats about formatting etc.


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Whatever happened to empathy

When people ask why I vote Democrat or why I lean to the left (which is a joke, because in every other country I have lived in but America I am considered center-right, but in Mississippi if you aren’t teabagging, you’re a socialist), I always explain two things:

First, I reject the notion that poor people are poor because they did something to deserve it, which is the tacit undercurrent in the thinking of a lot of Republicans.  I don’t understand why people who have money find it so difficult to part with theirs as members of society.  What happened to human kindness?  This type of thinking is rampant when you talk about universal health care. People are always like “I don’t want to pay for other people’s cancer” or something.  God forbid you foot the bill for something that helps society. Let’s stop paying for roads too. Or even better-why pay for public schools?  I will never have kids but I have no problems morally or philosophically for something that helps the people around me grow up less stupid.  The worst is that the biggest opponents to universal healthcare are these middle class people making between 80 and 200 a year who, whether they like it or not, Obamacare or not, are one cancer diagnosis away from medical bankruptcy.  When people troll me I wish them well and hope they never, ever get so sick that they have to choose between medical care or paying the mortgage.

Secondly, the Republican party’s war on women is real. Whether or not it is legal, whether or not Roe v Wade still stands on paper, it is impossible to get an abortion in states like Mississippi. Morality aside, birth control, reproductive healthcare and yes, abortion benefit the poor.  Again, it is these middle class white women soccer moms who think it can’t happen to them voting for people who want to vote Roe away.  I have nothing but rage for these so-called Christians, mainly women, who forget that if it weren’t for the grace of God, you could have a shitty life. Guess what ladies? Not all of us get to have good husbands. Not all of us get to be soccer moms. Some women are the sole breadwinners in their families and when you make the Pill expensive, when you make abortion impossible, there are that many more children growing up poor.  That many more women you can call welfare queens. That many more women who will never make it out.  No one should be forced to be a mother, but the Republican Party has no answers for women who are not in the soccer mom demographic.  And the sad part is that some of these middle-class Republican women are only one divorce away from joining the ranks of the very group of women they so disdain.

I don’t understand the dream world people live in where we get to decide what we want to do with our tax dollars, where we labor under the delusion that people who are poor  or who don’t have nuclear two-parent families are somehow degenerate and unworthy of our kindness. It makes me quite sad. I find it arrogant that people who think they have something have only themselves to thank. When I look around at family and friends, I see all of us have worked hard. Just some of us-like me- had more chances along the way. You can call it luck, but that is what I mean by the grace of God- sometimes I was just in the right place in the right time, and someone who worked just as hard as I did to get to that point got passed over. I never forget how lucky I am, and I find people arrogant who get all Donald Trump about how their riches are all from them.

I know these posts are supposed to be light, but these thoughts have been weighing on my mind every time someone asks me about the election and I hold my tongue.  I don’t know what happened to my country. It is true what they say- you can never go home.


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Getting to know Packing Cubes

This post is part of Stephanie Booth‘s 10 day blogging challenge.  You can read about the details and join in here , and check the hashtag #back2blog for the others who are doing the same.  While I blog regularly at Muslimah Media Watch, I should do more here. So here is post 1 out of 10, enjoy!

The past year, having done many trips back and forth Zurich-Lausanne, trips to France and Italy and Spain (if you stretch the definition of year) and regular work trips to Amsterdam and London, I have been trying to resist my natural urge to overpack and become a more zen traveller with less ballast.  Two criteria have helped me whittle down: I refuse to check luggage so I must limit my toiletries to the 3-1-1 bag (a makeup lover’s nightmare); and, if whatever I want doesn’t fit into my Patagonia MLC, it doesn’t go (nb: the MLC is too large generally for three or four day trips, but I find it holds my work laptop and assorted textbooks as well as my clothing, thus reducing the need for a book bag or a tote).

So once I found the perfect bag and the “as good as it is going to get without checking the bag” toiletries situation, I started wondering how I could streamline further, and chats with Stephanie as well as journeys to the ends of the internet led me to packing cubes, the little rectangular things that help you sort your clothes even further. I’m usually skeptical of the little accessories of a capitalist, consumer society, and I feel like some sort of poseur  flashpacker (halfway there with the Patagonia bag anyway). However, that balances out against the “digging through my luggage in a hotel room at 8am when I am late for work in Amsterdam” and have gotten cubes in the hopes of just having the peace of mind of knowing where my crap is without dumping the compartment-less MLC upside down on the bed.

My trip to Amsterdam in the coming days will be my first trip with the cubes. I have two smaller cubes (socks), two medium size cubes (t-shirts) and one big cube for dirty clothes as they get dirty (trick I learned online, somewhere at the ends of the internet). I’ve already packed everything but shoes and trousers. My first assessments are:

-cubes are definitely a “nice to have” item rather than a necessity.  For the usually-under-four day trips I do, they might be overkill, and to be honest, I could easily pack the MLC without them. I’m not in love yet. I feel like this is another one of those things, like armpit bleaching deodorant, that capitalism tries to tell us we need or something, but no.  I think I would only start getting my money’s worth out of cubes at the day 7 or 8 mark but for 4 days I’m still in “gadget” territory. But like a good sport, I’m giving them a try for this short trip.

-In my case, since i pack reasonably light, the cubes add bulk for shorter trips. The ones I have are no-name brand but pretty light but the MLC has soft sides and the cubes make it pooch a bit.  However, the bulk is offset by everything being there color-coded by cube (underwear in one, socks in one…), and the organizational aspect is currently worth a few more centimeters to me. (For MLC fans- if the MLC is stuffed it will not fit into some of the smaller European jet overheads. Best bet Europe intramuros is to keep it only 3/4 full so as to smush it).

So I’m not sold on the cubes yet, but am excited to try. I’ve gotten to the point professionally and personally where I need to think as little about packing as possible (I probably spent an inordinate amount of time agonizing over buying the cubes, then the birthday GC helped stop that) and I am hoping that the milliseconds I save each trip not looking for underwear will somehow add up.


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Some more thoughts on skincare in airplanes

While looking for ways to tweak my airplane routine in prep for my trip to New York, I was surprised at the number of people google told me about who don’t do anything for their skin before getting on a plane. I’m definitely not a barbie girl, still pretty low-maintenance, but just hopping on the plane I don’t get, it can really mess up your skin for a couple of weeks.  For those of you who have met me, y’all I’m definitely not a person who cares about looks and clothes, but for me, skincare and light makeup is about overall maintenance and how we present, regardless of weight or “fashion” issues. 

Anyway my usual routine goes a little like this:

1. Overall Hydration: you should start this a few days before you get on the plane. Drinking five liters of water on the plane is just going to make you pee a lot and do very little for your skin. I up my water around three days before- that is what will make the difference for your skin, not loading up on the plane.  This also means cutting out the salt and the alcohol (for those who do that) a few days before.  The night before I also do a mask and shovel on the night cream and usually have some coconut water for the magnesium. 

2. Sunscreen: A lot of blogs say you should sunscreen while you are on the plane. While it is true that you can catch UV in the plane, sunscreen is bad for your skin- it clogs pores and doesn’t let your skin breathe.  As anal retentive as I am about sunscreen (every day of every month of every year), I never wear it on planes. It just isn’t worth the irritation and big pores from having 12-18 hours of it sitting on top of your skin in a compromised environment.

3. Cleansing in the plane: I don’t want to know where the plane water comes from.  So I am not a big fan of using that water on my face, and I don’t think wipes do the type of cleansing you need in that environment.  So what I do is take my shower and wash my face as close to leaving as possible, then slather on what I would use as a night treatment, regardless of it being a day or a night flight. Then I don’t touch my face, except to put on more eye cream, until I get to the lounge (why yes that is how i roll). I think wipes are good to have on you if you are dealing with delays or accidents, but I don’t think they should be your main cleaning situation because they won’t go as deep as you need for 12 hours of plane funk on your face.

4. Makeup on the plane: I don’t, not at all. Like sunscreen, some products are bad for your skin in certain environments. And don’t give me the crap about mineral makeup if you don’t want to hear the story about the woman who used Bare Minerals and never washed her face ever again, because it was “natural.” This is where wipes have an admitted benefit- if you absolutely must be somewhere when you get off the plane and don’t have a lounge, then by all means wipe off your night cream and throw on some TM and mascara before landing. I’ve also found that in business class people are more worried about getting their sleep on or finishing that presentation they need, so no one is going to be looking at you. 

5. Lip balm etc: you want the richest, heaviest, thickest lip balm you can find. Personally, straight up lanolin is your best bet, but plain shea butter or cocoa butter can work too. Then throw something on top of it like vaseline to seal it.  I generally use a cuticle cream on airplanes too, because the hand sanitizers rip my skin like my mofo. 

6. What do I carry for the plane:  because i do my skincare and hydration before, those items get packed and ziploc bag gets what I take for when I land.  Before getting on the plane, I use  my beloved nuxe oil on my entire body, including face and hair, then touch up my face with  clarins flash balm and the “matching” eye balm. For when I land, I wash my face at the first clean bathroom without a dubious water source with whatever is on hand (this trip will probs be Shiseido Perfect Whip in the tube), then moisturize with whatever LRP moisturizer I am using lately (right now Rosaliac) or some DDML.  The two or three days around flying are not the time to do harsh scrubs or retinols or any moisturizer with “weird” ingredients- wait until day two or so after landing when your skin has adjusted to your new climate.  Keep loading up on eye cream for a couple of days as well.

And please, unless you want to hear the NSFL Bare Minerals Lady story, wash your face before you get on the plane.